This is the second edition of this series of interviews with inspiring women business owners. They also happen to be clients of mine who I know personally and professionally. Through my own virtual assistant business I get to help them reach their business goals.
This interview is with my friend and client, Robin Meloy Goldsby, a talented pianist, composer and author. While she is not a typical small business owner, she and her husband do own a publishing company so that they can control all the rights to their creative content. Learn more about her creative passions, how she keeps all the pieces of her career and business running, and the worst piece of advice she’s ever received.
On to the interview…
Getting to Know Robin
We’ve known each other for a few years, but for the readers, please tell us about yourself.
I play the piano and compose songs about things that matter to me. I write books about music. Notes and words have accompanied me through my entire life, providing a melodic narrative to pretty much everything I do. [Visit Robin’s website to discover more!]
Besides being a pianist, composer and author, you also own Bass Lion Publishing. Tell us how it all comes together.
Bass Lion Publishing is a multimedia imprint dedicated to quality music, music literature and music education. Bass Lion controls publishing and licensing for compositions, recordings, books, and lyrics written by me and my husband, John Goldsby.
How has your business and profession developed?
I started writing and playing the piano when I was nine years old. I’ve never done anything else. Bass Lion Publishing evolved from a need to maintain control of my creative work.
Knowing what you do now, what advice would you give to yourself 5 years ago?
Calm down. Buck up. Delegate. Enjoy the adventure, every part of it.
Short and sweet advice! What was the biggest obstacle to overcome to get your career started and keep it going?
Money. The financial backing we need for specific projects isn’t always available when a creative urge strikes. I’ve learned to be patient. An artistic concept doesn’t fizzle and die just because the timing is off.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
I love what I do. Whether I am composing pieces for a new album or writing a new story, the work itself feeds me and provides all the motivation I need to keep going strong. Coffee and fresh air help.
The wonderful author, Jane Smiley, said: “I believe that you either love the work or the rewards. Life is a lot easier if you love the work.”
As a lyricist, I have been trained in the craft of setting words to music. As an author, I’ve learned to work from the opposite direction, by stringing words together and finding their musical flow. Whenever I get it just right (not as often as I might hope), I experience a whoosh of elation. My personal triumphs come from stumbling upon a perfect word, tapping out the rhythm of my sentences, and, on a good day, arranging the weird themes of my life into beautiful or ugly melodies that make sense.
And do you have a personal mission statement?
Music counts. Words matter.
We met through the American International Women’s Club in Cologne, so I know that you’re involved with supporting other women and women’s issues. Can you tell us more about it?
I am an active member of FAWCO (the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas) and volunteer my services as a performer to help raise money for FAWCO projects. Over the past few years I have presented concerts that have raised over 40,000 dollars for various local and international groups interested in improving human rights for women. We are now entering a fund raising cycle that targets education for women and girls. Concerts in Berlin, Milan, Hamburg, and Cologne are planned in the coming months. All I do is show up and play—the women who organize these events deserve the praise!
About Robin’s Work
How do you find fans and potential new clients?
Because of the personal nature of my work—my music is fairly intimate and my stories reveal a lot about my life—I have an ongoing dialog with my fan base. I have a small but very loyal group of fans and I do my best to keep them engaged with my latest projects. Many of my contacts come from live performances—people who enjoy what I do and then make an effort to stay in contact through my monthly newsletter.
Which moment or achievement are you the most proud of in your business?
Two answers to this question!
1. The publication of my first book, Piano Girl: A Memoir, offered a chance for me to morph my music with my words and share my autobiographical stories with anyone curious about the behind-the-scenes life of a lounge pianist (more people were interested in this than you might imagine). Piano Girl made a minor splash, garnered a Publishers Weekly Starred Review (a big deal in the publishing world), and landed me a handful of NPR shows, including “All Things Considered” and “Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland.”
The Piano Girl media hoopla stoked my ego, but I soon realized those temporary highlights couldn’t compete with the thrill of writing—the bliss that comes with finding the lore of a story or discovering the musical threads connecting the chapters of my life.
Since that fateful Piano Girl launch, I have written four books. Waltz of the Asparagus People is a sequel to Piano Girl; Rhythm: A Novel tells the story of a young female drummer. My new book, Manhattan Road Trip, is a compact collection of short stories about musicians.
2. I am extremely proud of my longevity in the music business. I started playing professionally when I was eighteen, and, except for a baby break, I have hardly missed a week of work. The music business is fickle, but by sticking to my artistic vision (in the biz world you call it a “brand”), I’ve managed to keep working.
Who has been the most helpful throughout your career?
I’m in the business of telling stories, with notes and words. My dad, a versatile Pittsburgh drummer who played in symphony orchestras, jazz clubs, and burlesque theaters, always kept our family entertained with stories about drunks, divas, and exotic dancers with names like Irma the Body. As a child, I listened to his pitch-perfect tales of life as a musician, and dreamed that someday I’d have my own stories to tell. Dad always said: “Do what you love and eventually people will throw money at you.” No one is throwing money yet, but I make a decent living doing what I love, so his words of advice turned out to be true.
A best friend of mine, Robin Spielberg, has greatly influenced my life. She continues to show me that art and business are not mutually exclusive. I can stay true to my artistic vision and apply sound business practices to the way I approach financial decisions and career choices. Robin has always been a pioneer—she started her own record label decades ago, and was the first person in my circle to have a website—in 1994!
My husband (and business partner), John Goldsby, has been another great mentor, showing me how to separate the “ick” from the art, and how to maintain financial balance and good sense without compromising my music or writing.
What are your plans for growing or expanding in the future?
Staying on the same path and widening the road by increasing the number of people who read my books and listen to my music.
To keep the connection with your fans, what are two online tools that you can’t live without?
Facebook has been critical for me—I am able to interact with my fan base in a “personal” way and control the amount of information I put out there so it doesn’t get too creepy. My monthly newsletter, using MailChimp, also helps get information to my audience in an organized fashion. I send out a new essay every months, and the positive reaction has been fantastic for business.
Do you have a business philosophy?
“You don’t sell a product; you sell a feeling.” Luckily, I am in the business of tapping into my feelings and putting them into musical or lyrical forms. The more access I have to my emotional core, the more response I receive from my audience. By staying true to myself I stay true to my business.
And what’s the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
To follow the money—to create for financial gain. I admit to trying this a couple of times—it’s always a bad idea. If my heart isn’t in the project, it’s doomed from the start. No more.
Connect with Robin
Working With Me
How do I make your job easier?
As a writer, I have enough on my desktop without worrying about technical issues. You have eliminated needless fretting from my daily life. Now, with your help, my over-worked brain remains free to concentrate on the creative part of my business. I’ve achieved increased sales and more brand recognition. Personally, having monthly newsletter deadlines has helped me develop a more disciplined approach to marketing efforts. I would recommend you and your business, Spark Virtual Assistance, to anyone with limited tech skills (or limited time) who wants to push her business to the next level.
Thanks for the glowing review! What’s your favorite thing to hand over to me?
Managing my mailing list! If I start worrying about who is subscribing or unsubscribing my life turns into a trauma-drama soap opera. I am thrilled to be removed from this part of the process.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about working with a virtual assistant?
Do it. It’s the best money I’ve ever spent on any aspect of my business.
What do you find most inspiring about women who own their own businesses? Leave it in the comments below.Inspired by this #womeninbiz interview with the talented @robingoldsby Click To Tweet